Pharmaco-physio-psychologic effect of Ayurvedic oil-dripping treatment using an essential oil from Lavendula angustifolia

Xu F, Uebaba K, Ogawa H, Tatsuse T, Wang BH, Hisajima T, Venkatraman S
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2008


Ayurvedic oil-dripping treatment, Shirodhara, involves the use of medicated herbal sesame oils. In our previous reports, we found that Shirodhara with plain sesame oil induced anxiolysis and an altered state of consciousness (ASC) in healthy subjects. We studied the pharmaco-physio-psychologic effect of Shirodhara with medicated sesame oil including an essential oil from Lavendula angustifolia (lavender) in the present study. Sixteen (16) healthy females (38 +/- 8 years old) were assigned at random to three treatments applied by a robotic oil-dripping system: plain sesame oil (plain Shirodhara), medicated sesame oil with a 0.3 volume % of lavender essential oil (lavender Shirodhara), or the control supine position. Psychophysiologic parameters including the heart rate, skin temperature of the dorsum of hands and feet, as well as anxiety and ASC were monitored, and the rates of change of these items were calculated to assess the psychophysiologic changes brought about by Shirodhara. Lavender Shirodhara showed potent anxiolytic and ASC-inducing or promoting effects, and induced the largest increase in foot skin temperature. The correlation between anxiolysis and ASC, as well as the correlation between these psychologic effects and the elevated foot skin temperature were larger in the lavender Shirodhara than in the other two conditions. It was speculated that the psycho-physiologic effects of lavender Shirodhara would be brought about by three mechanisms: (1) the well-known relaxing action of essential oils from L. angustifolia mediated by olfactory nerves, (2) the pharmacologic action of substances absorbed through the skin or mucosa in the sesame oil or lavender essential oil, and (3) the physiologic effect of sesame oil dripped on the forehead induced by the somato-autonomic reflex through thermosensors or pressure sensors in the skin or hair follicles via the trigeminal cranial nerve. The complicated pharmaco-physio-psychologic action of Ayurvedic oil treatment may provide a useful model for future pharmaco-physio-psychotherapy.


Xu F, Uebaba K, Ogawa H, et al. Pharmaco-physio-psychologic effect of Ayurvedic oil-dripping treatment using an essential oil from Lavendula angustifolia. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14(8):947-956.

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